Helpful information for taking exams

How well you do on an exam depends on not only on how much you know the subject you are being tested on but also knowing how to take the exam. When I first encountered multiple-choice exams in high school, I did not do very well; however, if the same exam had been a non-multiple-choice format, I would do better as I studied for the exam. I knew some other students who did not do well on multiple choice exams.

Why is this so? I think the main problem was I lacked skills for taking multiple-choice exams. Prior to high school education, I never had a multiple-choice exam. As I was new to this format of exams, I generally did not always pick the best answer to a question. I recall I would correctly answer my history's teacher questions but when it came her multiple-choice exams, I did very poor.

Throughout my high education, I preferred written exams over multiple-choice exams. I think testing is a way of determining how much you know and how well you indicate this. I viewed that having the student offer his/her own answer to a question is more beneficial to the student because then the student develops skills to communicate his answer, where as in a multiple-choice test, all the student is doing is recalling or recognizing the best response.

My purpose of this post is to offer students tips that can help them take an exam with confidence and with the expectation to do better.

For all types of exams:

  1. study early (study before or after class on daily basis)
  2. know all of your material at least day earlier than the exam
  3. if you can study today, don't wait for tomorrow. Study when you can, without waiting for the next chance
  4. develop skills that prepare you for that specific type of exam. (if this is your first essay exam, for example, practice writing essay early on. Have your teacher review them.)
  5. start a question list for any questions you have on the exam material. Ask these questions a day or two early before the exam day.
  6. know early of the requirements of the exam, if possible. Don't rely, for example, on use of a calculator if your instructor won't allow its use for the exam!

A quick tip

Consider answering easy questions first and answer them as quickly as possible. This will give you more time to work on harder questions. Don’t forget to mark questions that you will do later. Once you are done with easy questions, you can go back to those that you skipped in the first round. In the second round, consider answering those questions that you feel most confident answering correctly and quickly. In the final round, answer the remaining questions and don’t forget to leave some time for checking answers.

Tips for taking a multiple-choice exam

  1. read each question and the choices very carefully. Choose only a best response. If you are not sure you may skip it for later
  2. occasionally, you may find a answer to a multiple-choice question in other questions. So be on the look out.
  3. be sure to answer every question. Go over the test and double-check, before handing out.
  4. for each question, mark any difficult question that you answer. After you have completed the exam, reevaluate those questions and consider changing answers.
  5. make sure you clearly understand the question, if you need help, ask your instructor.
  6. use a dictionary or any other tool that your instructor approves for taking the exam
  7. if your exam will be graded by a machine, it is essential to make sure all marks be dark.

Here are some tips for you for your next essay exam:

  1. make a list of important points (include the order in which you want to mention.). Think of this as a mini-outline but don't spend too much time on this as what will count for your exam grade is your essay, not your outline. Since this is just for you own reference, use abbreviations where possible; also don't forget to briefly mention any examples for each key point.
  2. organize your response to the essay or just follow your outline. Make sure your response logically follow from beginning to the end. Tie the points or ideas of the essay.
  3. make sure your response is relevant and specific as possible. Offer ideas or facts to make your case.
  4. make sure you essay satisfies the length of words that your instructor expects. Some instructors say don't prefer a specific length of words for an essay response but they just want a complete essay response. If this is the case, make your response as complete as possible
  5. pay attention to spelling and grammar. Your essay should be legible and clear. Make every effort to make it as presentable as possible.

General tips for taking any exam

  1. Remember to show your work. This will not only help you get partial credit but also help you know how you derived the final answer.
  2. Aim to get partial credit, if you think you won't get full credit.
  3. Answer the question using keywords or catch phrases that your instructor expects of you. This does not, however, mean that you cannot use keywords or phrases that you researched beyond the class material.
  4. Offer your response as clearly and logically as possible
  5. manage your time to answer all questions, especially those questions that are worth more points.
  6. Manage stress don't excessively worry about the exam as this will likely make you less productive. If you cannot answer a question, move on to the next question. Save most difficult questions to the end but make sure to answer all questions.
Posted on 8/27/2006
by Raj Singh